Catwoman (2002) #1

Catwoman  1

I’ve meant to go back and reread Brubaker’s Catwoman for literal decades now. The last time I tried, I started the post about Catwoman #1 pointing out it proves Ebert’s “no masks in noir” rule from his Batman Returns review wrong.

I’ll never be able to top that one, though it’s impossible not to think of Catwoman in those terms. With Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred’s brisk, expressive art, Matt Hollingsworth’s lush but dark palette, Catwoman’s a visual feast. Especially once Selina gets back in “the outfit” and goes for an evening constitutional, hanging out on giant heads from a Schumacher Batman only fit to the Gothic city. It’s dark but not depressed; there are moments of such sincere joy in the comic. Not just for the reader but for Selina. She’s been struggling to get her groove back, and she’s finally got the right idea.

The comic’s got full narration from Selina, with Brubaker toggling between first and second person. When Selina’s feeling good about herself, it’s first person. When she’s tearing herself down, it’s second person. Batman ethics and morals have aged terribly, even in the last twenty years—I didn’t even realize I’m starting Catwoman again on its twentieth anniversary—so Selina feeling bad for thinking her friends—poor people, marginalized people—are actually worth it no matter what Batman says… yikes. Batman does show up, and Brubaker (and Cooke) give him the swashbuckler, Zorro feel, not the fascist Frank Miller one, which is good.

But still. Yikes. Find a better role model, Selina.

And she sort of does. She’s been seeing Leslie Thompkins for talk therapy. However, Selina’s been hiding her Catwoman side even though Batman already told Leslie, so she’s known the whole time, which seems professionally questionable. Be careful, Dr. Thompkins; it’s a slippery slope ending it faking the death of the first female Robin or whatever.

The opening has a hook—someone’s killing sex workers and terrifying them before doing so—and the soft cliffhanger gets Selina into the know. She’s been hiding out in the Narrows or whatever it’s called, most people thinking she’s dead, fallen from high society, and not wanting to return to the Jim Balent days of Catwoman. It’s an earnest, speedy character development issue. Not too much backlog, but some panels showing off Cooke’s ability to mix Catwomen of all vintages and costumes; Selina’s trying to move forward and do some good.

It’s such a great first issue. It’s nice. It’s never not tough, never not potentially rough, but it’s also so damn nice.

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